Some days I walk around the house and become very overwhelmed. I see dirty dishes overflowing out the sink, a blanket of crumbs on the floor, and disorganized stuff and toys everywhere except out of my face. My heart starts beating a little faster and my skin starts to tingle. The baby starts crying even after I’ve given him everything but heaven and the older two squabble over something about as important as mud. I go upstairs to try and ward off the laundry monsters and almost trip on the bags of trash I’ve left in plain sight for my husband to notice.
I pick up the bags and, after a quick check for any unsuspecting victims below, I hurl them down the stairs. Of course, one of the bags opens scattering dirty diapers, snotty tissues and who knows what else all over the stairs and floor. This is when it starts to get ugly.
"Why can’t he just pick up the trash!"
Crying baby in tow, I gather the trash back up and shove it into the overflowing dumpster. I pass by the bathroom on the way back upstairs and catch a quick glance in the mirror. Were those scales growing on my skin? "Great, how in the world will I find time to add body lotion into my morning prep routine? Oh well, like my husband cares."
Still unable to satisfy the baby, I decide to take a sit-down break with him, again. I go into my room and see the unmade bed and decide to make it before I sit down. I walk over to my dearest husband’s side and discover all his missing clothes on the floor. Again. I stand there for a few moments and feel my blood start to boil. Did I leave the steamer on? Slowly, I pick up the clothes and gently place them nice and snug…under his pillow.
I go to sit on my nursing chair and find that it’s been turned into a racing scene from the movie Cars. Mater said he always wanted to go for a ride in one o’ them helicopters. I’m sure Lightning and Doc enjoyed their ride through the air just as much.
"He could have at least moved these to the dresser instead of sitting on them to put his shoes on this morning."
I sigh heavily (or was that a growl?) as I sit down to finally nurse. I look down at the face of my baby boy and feel my heart rate begin to normalize. His eyes start to roll back into his head and his breathing becomes heavier. Enter in six year old daughter with a ready defense on her lips and a sobbing three-year old boy following close behind. Their cries are quickly stifled by the lasers shooting out of my eyes and the loud protesting cry of their baby brother who is now far from anything remotely connected to sleep. Can you guess who I blamed for this?
Yup. The man who I promised to love forever though the good and the bad.
Unfortunately those sour thoughts haunted me throughout the rest of that day and well into the week before I realized what I was doing. I had trapped myself in the cage of resentment and cowardice. I was upset and felt that I was ‘doing everything’ around the house. I had avoided asking for help nicely out of fear of rocking the boat. And now I had steered myself and my (mostly) innocent husband into a pretty nasty storm.
With renewed clarity of the situation I had put us in; I filled up on grace through the Sacrament of Penance. Then I decided it was time to reach for the life jackets and turn to some fellow moms and wives to pull me out of myself before approaching my husband. My mom has survived 30+ years of marriage so I figured she’d have some good advice. I’ve witnessed some pretty silly arguments between her and my dad so took it to heart when she reminded me to "pick your battles." At the end of the day or of our lives, will it really matter if he left his clothes on the floor every now and then? I doubt many women at the divorce-signing table list "failure to take out the trash" as the main reason for the split.
There are times, however, that a situation comes up that just can’t be ignored. My friend Amy suggested bringing it up nicely by simply letting him know what is going on. "Honey it really bothers me when the trash gets too full." Or since most husbands still haven’t learned to read minds, "It upsets me when I have to pick your clothes off the floor." I usually get all armored up before broaching a touchy topic in case the poo hits the fan and he concludes that I don’t appreciate the things he does do for me. (60+hour work weeks, bedtime duty, spontaneous wrestle matches and tickle attacks with the kids, picking out all the dead leaves in the garden beds, holding baby so I can eat, putting water bottles around the house for me to drink, scrubbing our grimy shower, washing and vacuuming the car, going on the roof to clean the outside of our windows...)
My bitter heart began to really melt when another friend simply suggested praying. She sends up a quick prayer asking the Holy Spirit to form her words correctly and open her husband’s heart and ears to hear her out lovingly.
So I picked my battle and prayed. The conversation started out alright, went exactly where I feared it would, but ended up with us both laughing together. The funny thing is that whenever I go into a conversation hoping to change him, I end up walking away realizing how much I could change. Maybe I could remember to brush my hairs off the sink after blow-drying. Or I could take the extra time to squeeze the toothpaste out cleanly or throw my bath towel on the sink instead of the bed. I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt to just say "thank you" every now and then. I’m sure we’ll have the same conversation again throughout our marriage but I hope my resolutions to pick my battles and drop the small stuff will keep the boat sailing in smooth waters for a little while before the next squall.
Copyright 2010 Erika Marie